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Cone Health Foundation ranks in top 10 funders for HIV support


Susan Shumaker, president of Cone Health Foundation
The 15th annual Philanthropic Support to Address HIV/AIDS report recently released by Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA), ranks Cone Health Foundation 8th for funding HIV programs and services among “Deep South” states (defined by the Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative as: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas).

According to FCAA, 87 percent of HIV philanthropy for the Deep South came from the top 10 donors. Cone Health Foundation has invested $5.4 million in HIV treatment and prevention in the greater Greensboro area since the foundation’s inception in 1997, including a $544,000 investment in 2016. In addition, the foundation invested $698,407 in 2017 and will invest $722,991 in 2018.

Beginning in 2016, Cone Health Foundation’s HIV funding strategy focuses on treatment as prevention.Treating people with HIV lowers the amount of virus in their bodies and can dramatically reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to others. In fact, a landmark clinical trial in 2011 showed that people with HIV who began taking anti-HIV medications early (before their immune systems were significantly weakened) experienced a 96 percent reduction in their risk of transmitting HIV to sexual partners. This is why the continued expansion of HIV testing remains a primary prevention strategy – so that people who are infected with HIV can quickly be linked to care and can begin treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that HIV diagnoses in the U.S. are not evenly distributed across states and regions. Southern states account for more than half of new HIV diagnoses in 2016, while making up 38 percent of the national population. Yet, the Deep South receives less than a quarter of total HIV-related philanthropy for the U.S. each year.

In all regions of the United States, the majority of people who receive an HIV diagnosis live in urban areas. But in the South, 23 percent of new HIV diagnoses are in suburban and rural areas. The South’s larger and more geographically dispersed population of people living with HIV creates unique challenges for prevention and treatment.

The heavy burden of HIV in the South is driven in part by unique socioeconomic factors. Income inequality, poverty, and poorer health outcomes have long been more widespread in southern states, compared to the rest of the nation. These factors are not unique to HIV—people in the region have long suffered poorer health outcomes overall. Disproportionately higher rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and infant mortality, as well as higher overall mortality rates—are common throughout the south, compared to other regions.

“Much work remains to improve health in the Deep South. We know that many people across North Carolina lack access to health insurance or “fall in the insurance coverage gap” meaning that their incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid and too low to afford private health care. Multiple studies find improvements in health following when people gain health insurance coverage,” said Susan Shumaker, president of Cone Health Foundation.

Since 1997, Cone Health Foundation has awarded more than $86 million in the Greater Greensboro area in the form of 1,532 grants and contributions. The majority of these grants fall into the foundation’s four focus areas of grant making: access to health care, adolescent pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse/mental health. For more information about the Foundation, visit: